The students will be able to demonstrate their understanding of the use of status in relationships by doing an improvised scene with a partner in which they must switch status three times.
Mini-candy bars for at least half of the class (enough for the whole class if you want to be nice and give everyone one at the end!) Raisins (half the class will receive a single raisin) Assessment Rubric
As the students walked in the door for class I would hand them either a candy bar or a raisin. There would be two big signs, reading “candy bars” and “raisins.” Kids with candy bars would get to sit on desks while the raisins would have to sit on the floor. Play to the candy bars and speak to them kindly, while the raisins, look at with contempt and disgust. Really play it up and have fun!
Transition/Discussion: Ask, “What is status?” What are the characteristics of someone who is high status? Low status? Is status always about class, or can it be more subtle?
Group Practice: Students would each receive a number that they would safety pin to their chest. They would also be asked to put their shoes in the middle of the floor. We would then go around to each student and have them name a kind of monkey that they want to be (orangutan, chimpanzee, gorilla, etc.). I would explain that the higher the number, the higher the status of that monkey in the primate society. So, each student would come into the room, one at a time in any order, and begin a scene….with the shoes being bananas. Ask the students to think about how a high-status primate would act toward monkeys of a different status, or even to monkeys with similar statuses. Would they gather all the bananas themselves? Would they take bananas from monkeys with a lower status? Would they share the bananas? It would be the same with the low-status monkeys. Explain that you’ll be looking at how detailed the students were in their portrayals, how serious they were about it, and how well they created and displayed their status.
Discussion/ Check for Understanding: What did you notice about this activity? What was difficult or different? How did the high status treat the low status? How did the low status react?
Transition: Ok, now let’s try applying these concepts…but as people!
Guided Practice: Split the room by some sort of dividing line. Tell the students that they’re in a museum, looking at paintings. Count them off by ones and twos. Ones will be high status and twos will be low status. They can feel free to mingle as they look at the paintings and try to act their status. The catch is that every time they cross the dividing line, they must switch status. Comment and give suggestions to help as the exercise goes on, as well as point out students who are doing exactly what you want to see. **NOTE**It’s likely at this point that the kids are simply acting snooty when their high status and looking scared and small when they’re low status. So, challenge them to do the exercise again, but without using any of those characteristics. They must feel it on the inside and use their relationships with other people in the area to show what their status is.
Discussion/Check for Understanding: What did you see in this exercise? What was easy or hard the first time? The second time? How were you able to use status without making it about class? Where do we see status in our everyday lives? How can status be used in scenes?
Group Practice: For group practice, have the students get into pairs. Have them come up with an idea for a scene and improvise it, assigning each other a different status. Let the entire class start improvising their scenes all at the same time for a minute or so to let them practice. Then, as a class watch each scene and talk about who was playing what status. Those doing the scene would have the opportunity to explain their status choices.
Transition/Discussion: What worked or didn’t work in these scenes? How did the use of status enhance the scenes? Explain that in life we don’t just play one status all the time. Even in a single conversation, stakes change, tactics work or don’t work, and different statuses are played. Remind them to take this into account in their next scenes.
Assessment: Pair the students up and let them take a minute to decide what their scene is going to be about, similar to the last group practice. Then, have them each improvise a two-minute scene where they must each switch status at least three times. These should be performed in front of the class. Tell the students that you’re looking for at least three clear, distinct, and realistic status changes in their scene.
Clearly kept status in mind.
Switched status at least three times.
Had a clear, defined relationship.
Focused on partner.
Followed impulses and tried to remain open.
Accepted and added. Didn’t kill scene.
Trusted impulses and committed.
Switches in status were not always clear.
Did not fully commit to relationship with partner.
Focus on partner was good, but could have been stronger.
Followed some impulses, but did not always commit.
Accepted and added most of the time.
Did not switch status three times.
Did not define the relationship or commit to it at all.
No focus on partner.
Did not accept and add in the scene.
Did not trust impulses or commit.
Made the scene a joke.
So what did you guys get out of all this if anything? How can you apply this in your improvisation and acting as a whole? I want to challenge you to start noticing how status is being played around you in your everyday lives. The more you see how status works, the more you’ll be able to understand it and use it in your acting.